Aspen Film prepares for 32nd Shortfest in April |

Aspen Film prepares for 32nd Shortfest in April

Staff report
In "Garrano," part of Aspen Film's Shortfest, a young boy, Joel, discovers a man who is about to set a forest on fire.
Courtesy Aspen Film

Aspen Film, the year-round film arts and education organization, has announced its program for the 32nd Aspen Shortsfest, April 10-16

Celebrating over three decades of presenting shorts, Shortsfest is one of only four Oscar-qualifying festivals in the United States strictly dedicated to short film in animation, documentary and live-action narrative. 

The festival features new works from over 33 countries, with 11 programs, 79 short films, and 74 premieres, and each program contains a variety of shorts, from comedies to dramas and documentaries to animation.

“We can’t wait for audiences to experience the magical curation of our Shortsfest Programming and the energy created by filmmakers from around the globe. Ten of our films are world premieres, and we’re quite proud that 48% of our 79 titles are either directed or co-directed by women,” said Aspen Film Executive and Artistic Director Susan Wrubel. “During Shortsfest, we also offer our most robust FilmEducates program. Filmmakers and industry guests share stories, insight, and lessons with students in the classroom and on the stage.” 

“We were knocked out by the abundance of amazing new films by emerging talents from nearly every corner of the world among this year’s submissions,” said Jason Anderson, Shortsfest director of programming. “We’re thrilled to showcase so many new voices and new perspectives. We know that our audiences will be just as excited to discover.”

Among the prize-winning directors with new shorts in the selection are Kayla Abuda Galang (“When You Left Me On That Boulevard,” Short Film Grand Prize winner at Sundance 2023), Crystal Kayiza (“Rest Stop,” Short Film Jury Award winner at Sundance 2023), and Story Chen (“The Water Murmurs,” winner of the Palme d’Or for best short film at Cannes 2022). The selection also includes major award-winners by filmmakers in Greece, Canada, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the UK and Germany. 

Other new films at Aspen Shortsfest feature performers familiar to audiences. Among the character actors getting a bigger share of the spotlight at this year’s festival are “Total Recall” villain Michael Ironside (“The Family Circus”), “Men in Black” actor Siobhan Fallon Hagon (“All Choked Up”), and “Orange Is The New Black” actor Catherine Curtin (“Galapagos”).

A member of the Cherokee Nation who received an Academy Honorary Award in 2019 for his decades of roles that helped expand the range of representation for indigenous characters on screen, Wes Studi, performs in “The Roof,” one of the festival’s many world premieres.

Australian actor Hugo Weaving, of “The Matrix” and “Lord of the Rings” franchises, serves as narrator for “Teacups,” an animation by Alec Green and Finbar Watson that makes its international premiere at Shortsfest.

The festival also welcomes back alumni director Aemilia Scott, whose latest short “Help Me Understand” was co-produced by Paul Feig and stars comedy-world luminaries Ken Marino, Kate Flannery and Rachael Harris. 

All of this year’s films will be competing for nine prizes awarded by three juries, as well as an Audience Award selected by viewers. Shortsfest award winners will receive cash prizes of $1,250 or $2,500.

Notable 2023 Shortsfest jurors include actor, filmmaker, and author Justine Bateman, who has a decades-long resume in film and TV that includes a Golden Globe nomination and two Emmy nominations; Opal Hope Bennett, an Emmy-winning co-producer and shorts producer at POV; and Kiva Reardon, vice president of film at PASTEL, the filmmaking collective founded by Barry Jenkins, Adele Romanski, and Mark Ceryak. 

The Ellen Jury will present its annual Ellen Award for artistic merit and originality to a filmmaker. This award honors the memory of Aspen Film’s founder and first executive director, Ellen Kohner Hunt, who retired in 1995 and passed away in January 2021. 

The Youth Jury, comprised of middle and high school students, awards a student prize to the film that they feel best reflects the impressions, experiences and thoughts of today’s youth. Filmmakers have said that winning this award is one of the highest honors at the festival.

The Shortsfest industry special guests for 2023 include four industry notables: Sarah Lash, senior director of acquisitions for Condé Nast Entertainment; Sudeep Sharma, a programmer most notably for the Sundance Film Festival who focuses on documentary feature films; Glenn Kiser, the director of the Dolby Institute; and Jessica Kantor, a motion picture agent in the Independent Film Group at leading global talent and entertainment company United Talent Agency.

The festival is an industry-recognized destination for discovering breakthrough talent. Reinaldo Marcus Green (“King Richard”), Destin Daniel Cretton (“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” “Short Term 12”), Damien Chazelle  (“La La Land,” “Babylon”), Jason Reitman (“Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” “Up in the Air”), Sarah Polley (“Women Talking”) and the late Jean-Marc Vallée (“Dallas Buyers Club”) are among the notable alumni whose short films first screened at Shortsfest before they became household names. 

At Shortsfest, Aspen Film’s FilmEducates provides educational opportunities to schools throughout the Roaring Fork Valley and beyond. Programs are offered at no charge and aim to engage students and educators in conversations around a selection of age-appropriate films.

New this year is the Voices in Film Youth Forum which incorporates a wide variety of youth-focused programming and events during Shortsfest. The forum is an umbrella over key educational programs: Making Movies Matter, Filmmakers to the Classroom, Young Filmmaker Labs, Students to the Festival, and Youth Jury. The week kicks off with a special in-school event at the Aspen District Theatre featuring a selection of this year’s festival films.

For available pass options, please visit: For tickets, visit On-sale ticket dates: March 21 for members; March 24 for general ticket sales. Tickets: $20 for nonmembers; $15 for members.